Ryan Meersman

Ryan Meersman, WSU 2012
Early College Access & Recruitment Coordinator,
WSU College of Graduate and Continuing Education

I am currently the Early College Access Coordinator at Westfield State University.  I am also in my last semester in WSU’s Master of Public Administration program, focusing on education administration and early college programs.  I may eventually seek to earn a doctorate in public policy or education.

What did your WSU history degree/ courses mean to you? The courses I took for the history major opened my eyes to how our world’s history has shaped the world we live in, to different people and cultures, and taught me how to approach many situations through a critical lens.  When I first graduated and began teaching 8th grade World History, I knew my content and felt prepared to lead a classroom because of the skills I obtained in history and history education courses.  In my current job I have to digest a lot of information and studies.  History courses trained me to read everything, footnotes especially! I check sources and dig deep.  I know that I approach my work thoroughly because of my history degree. 

Why major in History at WSU?  It was my 8th grade history teacher that made me fall in love with the subject and initially want to teach. I strongly believe that we all must have at least a general understanding of history, and no matter what field we go into it is important to have a strong base of experience in the humanities.  I currently work to connect high school students with early college programs.  A lot of the work I do must be justified to state agencies.  When I research what employers look for in skills, it is no surprise to me that many top STEM companies (Science/ Technology/ Engineering) seek employees who can work well with others and have cultural competencies… much of that comes from being exposed to people and cultures different than ourselves while studying the social sciences. This is what the WSU history faculty understand, and they prepare us well for the world.  I can’t say enough about the expertise and experience of the history faculty…or about how they use that experience and expertise to simply make learning fun!

What advice would you give current history majors? With everything you do, approach it with an open mind and a critical lens.  A history degree can open up many doors.  Whether planning to go into the classroom or any other field, if you really want your degree to work for you, you must work hard for it.  Get involved in other activities and build strong relationships with peers, faculty, and staff.  You never know how your relationships in and out of the classroom will benefit you down the road.  Volunteer, take advantage of internships, join student groups, get involved in student government.

If history is something that interests you, and you are worried that earning a degree in history will not result in employment, then you must take a closer look at what WSU’s history department has to offer.  Students benefit from smaller class sizes, dedicated faculty who work closely with students throughout their time here, and opportunities to learn outside of the classroom that connect students to real world applications of history. 

How did you find your current career? After graduation I taught for 2 years, mostly as an 8th grade world history teacher.  I loved the classroom and my students, but was discouraged by the leadership in my district. I was getting to the point where I needed to start going to grad school and had to think deeply about earning a M.Ed. I decided that I wanted to open as many doors as possible, and an opportunity to come back to WSU as a graduate assistant working toward a MPA (MA in Public Administration) became available. I jumped at the opportunity and it worked out well. I feel like I am still putting my history degree to good use in the MPA. I’ve launched into a full-time higher education career where my job is to connect high school students to early college experiences, as a result I am right where I want to be! The 2 years of experience I have teaching in the middle school classroom were life-changing, and something I will carry with me forever. I miss the classroom and hope to teach in some capacity in the future.

As the Early College Access Coordinator at Westfield State I love that I am putting both my undergraduate and graduate experience directly to work in this position.